The Blood Ritual That Lives on YouTube

A controversial cyber-pagan ceremony conjurs issues of self-empowerment, solidarity, and heaven on earth.

Source: Gizmodo
Published: May 15, 2018
Length: 12 minutes (3,194 words)

Amazon’s Last Mile

Who delivers Amazon orders? Increasingly, it’s plainclothes contractors with few labor protections, driving their own cars, competing for shifts on the company’s own Uber-like platform.

Source: Gizmodo
Published: Nov 16, 2017
Length: 17 minutes (4,332 words)

Why Russia’s Heroin Addicts Are Going Through Hell

Russia’s aversion to harm reduction as a strategy to combat drug addiction has led to an HIV epidemic. In Yekaterinburg — the fourth largest city in Russia with a population of 1.5 million people — one in 50 are HIV positive. In Russia, addiction is considered a “moral sickness” and methadone is illegal — “a despised ‘narcoliberal’ idea.” The country has gone so far as to assert that drug addiction and homosexuality are notions imported from the West in a bid to corrupt ‘Russia’s “conservative ideology and traditional values.”’ For those who are suffering, the prospects are grim.

Source: Gizmodo
Published: Nov 4, 2016
Length: 8 minutes (2,117 words)

Princesses, Slaves, and Explosives: The Scandalous Origin of Vaccines

A look into the colorful and globe-hopping history of inoculation.

Source: Gizmodo
Published: Nov 18, 2015
Length: 12 minutes (3,038 words)

The Man Who Fought the Synanon Cult and Won

Paul Morantz helped bring Synanon down—and almost paid with his life. Here, he tells his story to Gizmodo’s Matt Novak.

Author: Matt Novak
Source: Gizmodo
Published: Sep 27, 2014
Length: 29 minutes (7,264 words)

The All-American Expo That Invaded Cold War Russia

“Over the course of six weeks during the height of the Cold War, almost three million Soviets visited an exhibition that celebrated America.” A look back at how it all happened, with help from companies like Pepsi, IBM, Sears and General Motors.

Author: Matt Novak
Source: Gizmodo
Published: Jul 28, 2014
Length: 22 minutes (5,599 words)

Synanon’s Sober Utopia

How a drug rehab program became a violent cult:

In 1970, George Lucas needed dozens of actors with shaved heads for his sci-fi dystopian movie THX 1138. He had trouble filling the roles at first, since so few actresses wanted to cut their locks, but Lucas eventually found the extras he needed in a strange utopian community where everyone worshipped sobriety and expressed solidarity by shaving their heads. It was called Synanon, and over the course of three decades it would become one of the weirdest and most vindictive cults of the 20th century.

Author: Matt Novak
Source: Gizmodo
Published: Apr 17, 2014
Length: 15 minutes (3,900 words)

Beat By Dre: The Exclusive Inside Story of How Monster Lost the World

How a maker of expensive HDMI cables bungled a deal with Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine when it agreed to produce “Beats by Dre”:

“Young Lee faced financial and familial self-destruction if he couldn’t seal the deal. So he sealed whatever he could—what he says was ‘the most complicated contract [Interscope] had ever seen.’ And he faced it by himself, with his BA, against a phalanx of corporate lawyers who wake each day to do nothing but negotiate contracts that favor interscope.”

“There can’t be two winners. Monster solidified an agreement that got Beats Electronics alive and shipping headphones, but not without gigantic forfeit: Jimmy and Dre’s side of Beats would retain permanent ownership of everything that Monster developed. Every headphone, every headband, every cup, every driver, every remote control—if there was a piece of metal or plastic associated with Beats By Dre, Noel and Kevin Lee surrendered it to Jimmy and Dre. Monster would also be entirely responsible for manufacturing the products—a hugely expensive corner of the deal—as well as distributing them. The heavy lifting. “I was a little intimidated by Dr. Dre,” Kevin Lee admits over a child-sized portion of chicken noodle soup. Noel sits beside him without a word.”

Author: Sam Biddle
Source: Gizmodo
Published: Feb 7, 2013
Length: 11 minutes (2,876 words)

Indentured Servitude, Money Laundering, and Piles of Money: The Crazy Secrets of Internet Cam Girls (NSFW)

A look at the women who work as “Internet cam girls,” and the criminal activity that may be occurring behind some of the cam networks:

“‘Cam sites are ideal for laundering. The studios are being used to have girls online accepting a financed hand that uses ‘dirty’ money to buy the private time. The studio gets paid for the private session, the girl gets her (very small) part and so the money comes back clean,’ Mila says. As a result, ‘most Russian and Romanian studios are Mafia owned,’ a claim she extends to the wider developing world. The picture becomes clearer when you remember how scattered and obfuscated these networks’ financial structures are—it’d be easier to confusingly launder money through a company that’s somehow simultaneously based in both Hungary and Portugal.

“The Eastern Bloc countries that so many cam girls call home are repeatedly mentioned in sex trafficking reports as both sources and conduits of illicit sex work—MyFreeCams has gone as far as banning all models from the Philippines, where conditions are said to be the most brutal.

“The reasoning isn’t mentioned, but is easy to surmise. Moving the exploitation online, where girls are under ‘contract’ to stay in a room for half a day at a time with dubious legal recourse, makes criminal sense.”

Author: Sam Biddle
Source: Gizmodo
Published: Sep 18, 2012
Length: 19 minutes (4,903 words)

Hunting Down My Son’s Killer

A father recounts his family’s quest to diagnose a rare disease in their son:

“We discovered that my son inherited two different (thus-far-unique) mutations in the same gene—the NGLY1 gene—which encodes the enzyme N-glycanase 1. Consequently, he cannot make this enzyme.

“My son is the only human being known to lack this enzyme. Below, I’m documenting our journey to the unlikeliest of diagnoses. This is a story about the kind of hope that only science can provide. (An open access article in The Journal of Medical Genetics contains the detailed results from ground-breaking experiment that diagnosed him.)”

Author: Matt Might
Source: Gizmodo
Published: May 31, 2012
Length: 20 minutes (5,140 words)